Reinforcing its reputation as a rising business and tourism hub, Riyadh has been named the sixth fastest growing travel destination in the world, according to the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index 2016 which was released recently.
Riyadh – with a compounded annual growth rate of 16.45% – is one of four cities from Middle East and Africa (MEA) to find a place among the list of top 20 fastest growing destinations with at least one million overnight visitors in 2016, along with Abu Dhabi (#3) and Dubai (#20).
Riyadh was also ranked the second most popular destination in MEA, with the Saudi Arabian capital projected to receive 4.59 million visitors in 2016.
Bangkok topped this year’s list of the world’s most popular travel destinations, pushing London to second spot, with Paris, Dubai and New York rounding off the top five.
Now in its eighth year, the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index provides more than a ranking of the most visited and fastest growing cities around the world. It projects visitor volume and spend estimates for the 2016 calendar year, while delivering a deeper understanding of how people travel and spend around the world. As cross-border travel and spending continue to grow at a faster pace than the world GDP, the world’s cities continue to be engines of broader economic growth.
“Riyadh has consistently clocked high growth rates in international visitor arrivals over the past many years,” said Raghav Prasad, General Manager for Gulf Countries Mastercard.
“Riyadh’s strong performance in this year’s Index – achieved on the back of renewed investment in tourism infrastructure and an ever-strengthening reputation for being a center for business tourism and for events and exhibitions – is commendable given it has been accomplished against a backdrop of continuing global economic uncertainty, which has affected tourism in many parts of the world.”
Riyadh’s top five feeder cities are all in the Middle East, with visitors coming via Dubai being the fastest growing segment at 39.2% between 2015 and 2016. In terms of country of origin, Kuwaiti residents account for 13% of international visitors, followed by Jordan at 10%, Egypt at 9%, and Pakistan and UAE both at 8%.
Fastest growing destination cities
The difference between the global Top 10 and the fastest growing Top 10 destination cities suggests that Asia/Pacific and the Middle East and Africa have become increasingly important to the global economic landscape. Many cities measured on the Index have increasing growth trajectories, indicating the growing interest in both visiting and living in cities.
Cities that made the Top 6 fastest growing destinations include:
· Osaka – 24.5 percent
· Chengdu – 20.14 percent
· Abu Dhabi – 19.81 percent
· Colombo – 19.57 percent
· Tokyo – 18.48 percent
· Riyadh – 16.45 percent
Forecasted overnight visitors to the Top 10 cities include:
· Bangkok – 21.47 million
· London – 19.88 million
· Paris – 18.03 million visitors
· Dubai – 15.27 million visitors
· New York – 12.75 million visitors
· Singapore – 12.11 million visitors
· Kuala Lumpur – 12.02 million visitors
· Istanbul – 11.95 million visitors
· Tokyo – 11.70 million visitors
· Seoul – 10.20 million visitors
For the first time, the Index explores whether visitors travel for business or leisure, and provides insights into how international visitors are spending, including dining, lodging and shopping. The 2016 Index shows that among the Top 20 cities, more people travel internationally for leisure, except to Shanghai. In terms of discretionary spending decisions, most visitors overwhelmingly spent more while shopping, except in Paris, New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam where dining was the top category. Seoul topped the list for greatest percentage spent on shopping against all categories at 58.7 percent.
Identifying Regional Trends
The Index provides insight into top destination cities in each region, including:
· Asia/Pacific –The region dominates both the global Top 10 (five cities) and Top 10 fastest growing destination cities (six cities).
· Europe –London, ranked second globally and first in the region, is the top feeder city in terms of visitor and spending volume for all other cities that round out the top European destinations: Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
· Latin America –Lima is both the top destination and fastest growing city in the region, with 4.03 million visitors (ranked 32nd globally) and a growth rate of 9.9 percent (ranked 15th globally). However, the rankings are very different in terms of overnight visitor spend; Punta Cana leads the region with US$2.95 billion followed by Mexico City (US$2.27 billion).
· Middle East and Africa – Dubai is the top ranked destination city in the region (ranked fourth globally), while Abu Dhabi is the fastest growing in the region with a growth rate of 19.81 percent. This marks the United Arab Emirates as both the most visited and fastest growing country in the region for the second year in a row.
· North America –New York, ranked fifth globally, is the top destination city in the region. It significantly surpasses the rest of the region in overnight visitor spend at US$18.25 billion. Nearly 90 percent of New York’s international visitors are from outside North America, led by London, Paris, Sao Paulo and Beijing.
Mastercard understands the significant role that cities play as centers of commerce, reflected in efforts to deliver technologies that provide greater efficiencies and convenience for governments and people. One example is the broad adoption of contactless payments by transit systems like London and Chicago. The insights from this report can also help airlines, hotels and other merchants create smarter, more relevant and customized experiences for their customers.